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Picture this…

A kid from Ottawa joining a local soccer team. He finds the love of his life on that soccer team, the ball. He develops a passion and love for the game so deep which leads him to Toronto FC and makes his professional debut there.

What if I were to tell you that is a true story.

Let me introduce to you a local kid with big dreams, Antonio Carlini.

Carlini is the next athlete featured in OPSM’s NextGenSeries, highlighting OPSM’s best talents under the age of 23.

A dynamic young midfielder, Carlini wears the number 10 on his back for a reason.

Carlini dictates the game. Controlling the opposition with his calmness in front of the net, his open eye of the field, and his quick decision making.

Born and raised in Ottawa, Carlini started his young career with one of the city’s most popular youth teams, Ottawa South United.

“I played with OSU in my earlier ages for around 5 years. There were many cultures there and I developed very well there.”

While at Ottawa South United, Carlini was taught by Paul Harris.

Harris heaps praise for Carlini.

“Antonio Carlini was one of the top players in the province of Ontario. And part of a hugely successful OSU 2001 boys tram which has yielded 5 players into professional environments. Antonio was always technically very good; he was an attacking midfield player who could manipulate the ball with both feet and could wriggle way out of tight situations his ability to dribble and dodge plus his vision for a pass allowed him to assist many goals for his teammates as well as scoring himself. He had a huge engine and the ability to go box to box as well as grit and determination to succeed. He loved football and his passion for the game drove him forwards to stand out above his peers.”

Harris’ words of praise for Carlini prove how confident coaches are in his ability. With undeniable skill and work-ethic, Carlini has every bit of potential to make it to the top.

After spending his earlier days with Ottawa South United, Carlini leaped over to MLS’ very own Toronto FC and hasn’t looked back since.

Carlini talked about his transition from Ottawa South United to Toronto, stating, “The first couple of months were tough because every kid that’s there has the same goal, they all want to play professionally. Meanwhile, in Ottawa, more kids were playing the sport just because they liked it. The competition was harder and it took some time to adjust.”

With Toronto, Carlini has made a name for himself.

From being captain of his academy team to making his professional debut with the reserve side in USL League One play, the young kid from Ottawa is turning his dreams into a reality.

“I wasn’t nervous, I was excited to jump right into it. As a player you spend your whole life working for this and I started off with a good game.” Carlini said.

That very quote shows how confident Carlini is in his game, something that you don’t get often, especially from an 18 year old.

Carlini connected with OPSM after talking with Godwin Addai for a year.

“I’ve been in contact with Godwin for around a year. There were more conversations at first and this year I decided to give it a go (signing with OPSM.)”

Since then, Carlini has thoroughly enjoyed his time at OPSM, saying, “It’s been short but it has also been very good… They really help me with a lot of things outside soccer, such as the mental aspects of the game and they really help me push harder.”

For now, the 18-year-old has his eyes set on the future.

¨My goal is to sign a first-team contract with Toronto FC. Right now I am on the second team and I am going to sign a second-team contract soon. My main goal is to work my way up to the first team.¨ Carlini said.

A versatile player, Antonio Carlini is a player to keep an eye out for. His vision for the field and tempo he plays at is a rarity for his age.

Dedicated, driven, full of skill. Antonio Carlini is the next generation.

To see who the next athlete featured in the OPSM NextGenSeries stay tuned.